As quarantine protocols and physical distancing measures are crucial in the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as well as other health emergencies, there is a need for the country to be more proactive in preparing for future possible pandemics.
In light of this, Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go filed Senate Bill No. 1259 or the “Mandatory Quarantine Facilities Act of 2020” which mandates the establishment of quarantine facilities in every region in the country strategically located near a Department of Health-managed public hospital.
“Let us learn from this COVID-19 experience. Ngayon palang, habang nilalabanan natin ang sakit na COVID-19, i-handa na rin natin ang bansa sa anumang krisis na maaaring dumating,” Go said.
The Senator explained that it is crucial for every locality or region to have its own quarantine sites to accommodate high-risk individuals suspected of having an infectious disease.
“Nararapat lamang po na maging proactive tayo at umpisahan nang maglatag ng mga measures na magsisiguro sa ating kahandaan sa mga darating pang krisis gaya nito,” he stressed.
In the explanatory note of his proposed measure, Go cites the World Health Organization guidelines and recommendations in combatting pandemics, stating that “isolating persons who have or may have been exposed to a serious contagious or infectious disease is a long-established public health strategy in order to prevent transmission.”
“This isolation mechanism should be part of the standard precautions that should be taken to prevent the spread of any infectious disease,” Go further states, adding that with the continuing emergence of infectious diseases, “there is a pressing need to establish quarantine facilities in the country.”
If passed into law, SB 1259 will establish quarantine facilities in every region designed for patients who are suspected to be infected or colonized with epidemiologically important pathogens that can be transmitted by airborne or droplet transmission or by physical contact.
The proposed quarantine facilities will also be fully equipped to include the needs of individuals who are quarantined, including adequate food, clothing, means of communication and competent medical care, among others.
To ensure the accessibility of the quarantine facilities to healthcare facilities, the bill proposes that their location are mandated to be easily accessible to a DOH hospital and strategically located to ensure the safety of the community. The location will be identified by the DOH in close coordination with the Department of Public Works and Highways and local government units concerned.
Likewise, the DPWH, in coordination with LGUs, will be in charge of the construction of quarantine facilities, formulation of building specifications based on standards, issuances and other guidelines. Meanwhile, the DOH will be primarily responsible for the operation, supervision, and management of the quarantine facilities.
“Hangga’t wala pong bakunang nadidiskubre sa COVID-19, our fight against it continues. Kaya naman hindi po tayo dapat maging kampante sa paglaban sa virus na ito,” he said.
Go cited that the adverse socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis has shown weaknesses in the health care system globally. Hence, there is a need for the government to be more proactive in preparing for such pandemics by continuously enhancing the country’s health facilities and the whole health care system.
“Gawin po natin lahat ng ating makakaya para maiwasan ang krisis na ganito sa susunod na mga panahon at ma-protektahan ang mga Pilipino at ang susunod pang henerasyon,” he said.
Go also noted that although all affected countries were not prepared for the COVID-19 outbreak, this crisis also highlighted the importance of establishing facilities in preparation for these kinds of situations.
“Nakita naman po natin na ginagawa ng gobyerno ang lahat para rumesponde sa krisis. Nagtayo agad ng quarantine facilities sa iba’t ibang lugar gamit ang available infrastructure na meron na tayo. Dahil sa bayanihan natin at sa tulong rin ng private sector, nagamit rin ang mga barko para maging floating quarantine vessels, at iba pang mga gusali,” he explained.
“Pero kung mayroon na tayong nakahandang pasilidad para sa ganitong mga krisis o sakuna, mas mabilis at mas mabisa nating maproprotektahan ang kalusugan ng kapwa nating Pilipino. Maghanda na po tayo bago pa dumating ang susunod na problemang kailangan nating harapin,” he added.